So here’s Blizzard talking about the auction house on Joystiq:
[Diablo 3 Director Jay] Wilson said that before Blizzard launched the game, the company had a few assumptions about how the Auction Houses would work: He thought they would help reduce fraud, that they’d provide a wanted service to players, that only a small percentage of players would use it and that the price of items would limit how many were listed and sold.
But he said that once the game went live, Blizzard realized it was completely wrong about those last two points. It turns out that nearly every one of the game’s players (of which there are still about 1 million per day, and about 3 million per month, according to Wilson) made use of either house, and that over 50 percent of players used it regularly. That, said Wilson, made money a much higher motivator than the game’s original motivation to simply kill Diablo, and “damaged item rewards” in the game. While a lot of the buzz around the game attacked the real money Auction House, “gold does much more damage than the other one does,” according to Wilson, because more players use it and prices fluctuate much more.
A “mistake”, you say. “Everybody uses it”, you say. “made money a much higher motivator than killing Diablo”, you say. “Gold does much more damage”, you say.
What’s that phrase?
[D3 is a] CASH economy. In previous RPGs, you’d generally trade time and a little luck for your gear and capabilities. In a game like World of Warcraft, for example, there were stark limits on what you could buy; most high-level gear needed to be earned through gameplay. Not in Diablo 3. Everything can be legitimately bought and sold in Diablo 3, whether on the Auction House or just between players. Absolutely everything.
Gear? Just buy it with gold. Enhancements (gems, in this case?) Gold. Weapons? Gold. It doesn’t matter whether it’s early-game magic gear or end-game legendary weapons dripping with power, all of it can be yours if you have enough gold. And, sure, there’s also the real-money auction house, but that’s only one small part of it. Gold and real money are interconvertible currencies as well; gold in Diablo 3 is a currency as much as any other, albeit one that’s backed by a game-maker instead of a state.
That changes things a lot. It makes the game’s economics ultimately much like the real world’s economics, where the value of things are usually reducible to cash. Your time, your luck, your skill in acquiring gear—it really just determines your gold-earning power…
…Look a little closer, and you’ll see why these things are contributing to the sense of ennui and dissatisfaction that is plaguing the game, and have been plaguing it since the game was launched. It’s why people are complaining that they just don’t find it “fun” like they did Diablo 2—and it might just be why the reviews seem not to capture these issues.
Unseemly to gloat? Maybe. Don’t care.
You all better recognize.
(Yes, yes, h/t to Ben Kuchera, who needs to get over it and unblock me on Twitter already.)